Start of the school year pushed back one week

Photo by Chad Koenen
Construction is already underway at Henning School as part of an expansive HVAC, parking lot and building project at the school.

By Chad Koenen


Henning School students will start school a week late and still be able to get out before the Memorial Day holiday next year.

During its regularly scheduled meeting last Tuesday night, the Henning School Board approved the 2024-25 school calendar which shows students beginning school on Monday, Sept. 9 and getting out of school on Friday, May 23, 2025. The schedule became a bit more of a challenge next year due to this summer’s HVAC and building project, as well as a new state requirement that mandates additional training for teaching reading.

While the schedule was ultimately approved by the school board, it didn’t come without a lengthy discussion about what school will look like for students and staff members next year. 

Two of the big concerns from school board members revolved around decreasing student contact days, as well as the amount of half days in the school calendar. Students in the 2023-24 school year were scheduled to have 170 student contact days, but that number was reduced to 167 days due to the school construction project. Next year’s calendar will have 168 student contact days, but the state minimum is 165 days. As a result, the school district will have just three snow days built into the calendar before it must go to e-learning. 

Henning School Principal Thomas Williams said students will technically start just a few days later than the 2023-24 school year since the Labor Day holiday last year was about as late as it could have occurred, and this year will be just about as early as it could occur. He added that coming back to school after Memorial Day for just a few days may not have the same educational value as finding a way to crunch in the school days during the school year. 

“It’s crunched, but it is a challenge if you come back to school after Memorial Day for just a couple of days,” said Williams. “There is a desire if we can get it done before Memorial Day it is going to be more productive.”

In order to get in enough days on the calendar, students will come back to school a bit earlier following the Christmas holiday than many school districts in the area. Henning students will return to school on Thursday, Jan. 2, while a number of school districts are taking that whole week off from school.

As far as the half days, Williams said the half days are necessary to comply with a new state standard for educating students on reading. Any staff member who teaches students reading in any way must comply with the new READ Act, which is a state requirement that includes an extensive training regiment. In order to get the training in within the teacher’s contract time, and not adding additional cost for having teachers come in for the training outside of their contracted time, the school district is having 10 half days next school year. 

“Ten is a lot,” said Williams. “We had three this year and that is something we don’t want to have to do, but I don’t know how else we can get this time in with the contract time we have,” he said. “We got two things piled on at once that are big items.”

In order to accommodate families schedules as much as possible, Williams said the half days were built into the calendar on Fridays, with the exception of the week of Thanksgiving. 

Henning School Board member Kim Haugen asked if after school day care or accommodations could be made for families who are in need of a place for their children to go on the scheduled half days of school. 

Henning School Board chair Reed Reinbold said he would be in favor of polling parents to see if there would be an interest in having day care on the half days, before deciding on whether to offer day care on the half days or not.

The school board passed the 2024-25 by a 5-1 vote with Haugen voting in dissent. 

In addition to the 2024-25 school calendar, the school board approved the addition of several new pieces of playground equipment that will be installed in conjunction with this summer’s HVAC and parking lot project.

“Currently our playground is rated (ages) 5-12 so we don’t have anything rated for our preschoolers,” said Henning School Superintendent Melissa Sparks. 

A new playground that will be rated for children ages 2-5 will be added, as well as a new dome rope climbing area that will replace the big metal dome in the back of the playground area for children ages 5-12. The current metal dome will be removed from the playground.

Sparks said there will also be some more inclusive playground equipment that will be added to the school to allow for children with wheelchairs, or those who may not be able to climb, to be able to play on as well.

On a positive side, Sparks said both a representative from Little Tykes and a playground equipment repair company looked at the Henning School playground and said it was in very good shape for its age and needed only minor repairs.

“Both of them said our existing playground was in very good shape for the age of our (equipment),” she said.

The new playground will also get a new set of wood chips this summer. Sparks said the school district looked at getting rid of wood chips altogether, but the cost for a new surface would be $70,000, which she said was not affordable. As a result, the school district will get new wood chips, liner and a rubber pathway along the outside of the playground instead.

In other news

• Approved setting a budget work session prior to the start of the regularly scheduled June School Board meeting. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Landmark Center.

• Approved the resignation of band instructor Ben Johnson.

• Approved a rental agreement with the Water’s Edge Church for summer targeted services and band camp. The school district will pay the church $200 weekly for rent when it utilizes the church. Sparks said the plan is to utilize the church for three weeks this summer.

• Approved a request from the Henning trap team to increase the school district contribution from $35 per student to $45 per student to assist the team with increased costs associated with the program.

• Heard the Farmstead will operate as the summer food vendor for the school district’s food service program this summer. The program is open to all students, not just students attending summer rec, STEM camp and Targeted Services. Lunch will be served on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the baseball field for summer rec. Breakfast and lunch will be served at the Water’s Edge Church for STEM Camp and Targeted Services.